Lesson Nine: Explore your roots to understand who you are

“Behind every appearance of diversity there is an interdependent unity of all things.” —George de Benneville.

Are you interested in genealogy? If so, dear reader, I have an amazing story to tell you that might seem unbelievable. But it’s true and it affirms the adage that we are all connected.

Once there were two sisters, born in the late 1500s, in Canterbury, England from a Protestant English mother and Dutch father. Their names were Marie and Hester Mahieu. During this time, the French Catholic government waged a brutal war against all Protestants, causing many of them to flee to England. A church was founded in Canterbury in 1575 for these French Huguenot (Protestant) refugees.

Canterbury’s population had grown to about 5,000 people by then, of whom 2,000 were French Protestants. Since Canterbury was crowded with religious refugees, it became difficult for everyone to earn a living. Perhaps this is part of the reason why the Mahieu family moved to Leyden, in the Netherlands, around 1590. Leyden had a reputation for being tolerant of people of different faiths.

Marie married a Frenchman named Jean de Lannoy. In 1602, they gave birth to Phillip de Lannoy. As a teenager, Phillip arrived on the ship Fortune at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621, one year after the Mayflower arrived. Once in Massachusetts, he changed his name to Phillip Delano. He married Hester Dewsbury and together they had six children. Perhaps the name Delano rings a bell to you? One of the best-known US presidents was Franklin Delano Roosevelt and he is descended from Phillip Delano.

US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Now before we get too far along, let’s get back to Marie’s younger sister Hester. Hester Mahieu married an English man named Francis Cooke in 1603. He was a Leiden separatist, like his wife and her family. These Separatists were religious refugees who fled England to Amsterdam in 1608 and moved to Leiden the next year. They lived and worked in that city for about 12 to 20 years. In 1620, their emigration to the United States began.

Cooke was a passenger on the Mayflower and arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. Hester came over on the ship Anne three years later with two of their children to join her husband. Hester and her sister Marie’s son Phillip were among the earliest settlers to the American colonies. They both lived in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Perhaps they even lived in the same house or near each other. What is for sure is that they had come to America to worship freely, without being told what to believe by government authorities. They grew corn like the other new settlers so they might have enough food to survive the harsh northeastern winters and they helped build up their community through public service. Between 1620 and 1640, twenty thousand English men, women, and children crossed the Atlantic Ocean to settle New England in what is called the Great Migration.

You will discover as I go down through the generations with the Mahieu sisters and their separate lines, the common element is people who don’t want to be told what they believed. They are independent but closely bound to their community and to America. Faith, family and community were all important.

One of Marie’s grandsons was named Philip, like his father. He lived in Duxbury, Massachusetts, a town on the coast near Plymouth and married a woman named Elizabeth Samson. They only had two children, unlike many new settlers who often had large families. One of his sons was named Phillip, like his father and grandfather before him. Although he had the same first name as his forbearers, he now changed his surname from Delano to Deland. Born in 1660, Philip Charles Deland grew up and settled a little further away from Plymouth, just north of the city of Boston in a seaside town called Beverly.

Phillip Charles Deland had a son named Paul, not Phillip, for a change! He settled north of his father in Newbury, Massachusetts, still near the Atlantic Ocean like all his previous ancestors in America. He married Phoebe Green, a woman with English ancestors, and had two children, including one named Phillip! However, they also had a son named Obadiah in 1733. Obadiah was a soldier who fought in the French and Indian war and in the American Revolution. Obadiah was the first Deland from this line of the family to move inland from the Atlantic Ocean. He lived with his wife in Brookfield, several hours west of Boston.

Obadiah was an energetic soul. When he wasn’t fighting wars, he was busy having children. He married Martha Jones and had ten children with her. When she died, he married her sister Mary Jones and had 9 more children with her. He was also a farmer and a wagon-maker. His oldest child from his second marriage was a son named John Deland, born in 1775, just a year before the 13 colonies declared independence from England. He was the first Deland to leave the state, five generations after they arrived from Holland.

By 1775, about 2.5 million people had travelled to North America to live the colonial life. Many people migrated to America for religious freedom, hoping to escape the religious persecution they faced in their own countries. Religious diversity was a dominant part of the Thirteen Colonies.

Now before we get too far down the road, let’s go back to Marie’s sister Hester Mahieu and see what happened with her and her descendants up to the time of the American Revolution. She and Francis Cooke got married in Leyden, Holland in 1603. While still in Leyden, they had three children, including a son named Jacob Cooke, born in 1610. Her husband, the now well-known Francis Cooke, sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 with their oldest son John. Hester, her younger son, Jacob and her sister came to American in 1623 on the ship, Anne.

Jacob settled in Barnstable, Massachusetts, across the Cape Cod Bay from Plymouth. He and his wife had four children, including son Josias Cooke. Records from that time period show that Josias got into a fight and was injured. Later he sued another man for a debt of 4 pounds and won a judgement of 3 pounds. He also sued someone named John Smith from Plymouth for slander and John Smith agreed that he had “much wronged the plaintiff by his unbridled tongue in these base and false charges.”

Despite his legal issues, Josias managed to have seven children with his wife Deborah Hopkins. Her father, Giles Hopkins, came to America from England on the Mayflower as a 12-year-old child. And her grandfather, Stephen Hopkins, was one of the original 41 signers of the Mayflower Compact, a governing document for the first settlers who would live in Plymouth Colony.

Signing of the Mayflower Compact

The oldest of Josias’s seven children was Elizabeth Cooke who also settled in Barnstable. She married Thomas Newcomb and they had three children, including Deborah Newcomb, born in 1702 in Truro, Massachusetts. This area is now called Cape Cod, near Provincetown, Massachusetts, on the Atlantic Ocean. Deborah Newcomb married Thomas Lamkin and they moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut, a neighboring state. They had a daughter named Mary, who lived from 1732 to 1790. Her husband was Archippas Blodgett, a soldier in the American Revolution.

So both Marie and Hester’s descendants settled first in Massachusetts and had family members who fought in the American Revolution. When the men went off to fight in the war, American women, children, and elderly were frequently faced with the occupation of their houses, churches, and government buildings by British soldiers, according to on-line sources. But most people didn’t fight in the revolutionary war. They were just doing their best to survive during difficult times. For example, the British blockade of America ports caused widespread unemployment.

What happened to Marie Mahieu’s descendants after the American Revolution? As I said earlier, John Deland left Massachusetts five generations after his ancestors first arrived there from Holland. He lived in New York State, where his son John Deland Jr. grew up. Nobody traveled too far away from the East Coast at this point. Automobiles had not been invented yet. John Deland lived in the first half of the 1800s. The Industrial Revolution, which took place from 1820 to 1870, resulted in many changes in the US and in Europe. Three important developments were: transportation was expanded, electricity was harnessed and goods began to be developed on a large scale through industrial production.

John Deland Jr. lived during this time period in western New York State. He had two children, including a son named Luther Lamont. Luther did his civic duty by serving as a juror in at least one court case. He and his wife raised four children, including Frederick Bishop Deland. Frederick was born in 1853 and died in 1928, the year before the stock market crashed. During his lifetime, he served in the Army on multiple occasions and he was the first Deland to live in many different places.

And what about Hester Mahieu’s descendants? How did they make the transition from the American Revolution to the Industrial Revolution? Well Archippas Blodgett, the revolutionary war soldier, had a boatload of children, 8 in all. One of his children was Henry Blodgett, who was born in New Hampshire and grew up in Vermont, two side-by-side states just above Massachusetts. So both the Mahieu sisters’ ancestors were moving away from the Massachusetts coastline now, but still settling in nearby states.

Henry and his wife Mary Lamkin had nine children, including a son named Zebina. He lived in both New Hampshire and Vermont. He and his wife had 10 children, including a son named Cyrus. Cyrus was born in 1819 and died in 1881, four years before the first automobiles were invented. He had three children, including a son named Francis Blodgett, who was born in 1846 and died in 1911, three years before World War I broke out.

What happened between the turn of the 20th century and World War II with descendants of Marie and Hester Mahieu? Now that cars were commonplace, their descendants were moving further and further west. Marie’s descendant Luther Lamont Deland married Delia Maltby, who gave birth to Frederick Bishop Deland. He was a man on the move. He lived in Utah, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. No settling down in one place for him.

He didn’t stay with one wife either. He had four different wives in his lifetime. With his second wife, Rosa, a young woman from Germany, he had three children. One of them was Charles William Deland, who lived from 1895 to 1962 in Chicago, Illinois. He and his wife, Naomi Graham, who was Irish, had two children, one of whom was named Phyllis Blodgett. She lived from 1924 to 2004 in the Chicagoland area and worked as a English teacher at New Trier High School.

Going back to Hester Mahieu’s descendants from the early 1900s, Francis Blodgett had a son, Fred Blodgett. He lived in Minnesota all his life, working as a salesman. He and his wife Rosetta Cook, who was from Canada, gave birth to Warren Blodgett. Warren served his country as a soldier, and shipped off to fight in World War I two months before it ended. Warren grew up in Minnesota and worked as a lawyer for an Insurance company but then moved to Chicago for his job. He had a son, Charles Blodgett, who lived from 1923 until 2010. He also served his country, fighting the Japanese in the Pacific during World War II. His timing wasn’t as good as his father’s and he actually saw combat.

One day in 1941, before the US became officially involved in the war, Marie Mahieu’s descendant Phyllis Deland and Hester Mahieu’s descendant Charles Blodgett met at an Anglican/Episcopal church event in Chicago. Phyllis was a beautiful brown-haired teenager and Chuck (as he was called) was a handsome and intelligent man attending Northwestern University in the naval officer’s training corps.

After Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, the United States declared war on Japan and Germany declared war on the United States. Even amid such upheaval in the world, this couple found time to fall in love. They got married in New Orleans in July of 1944. After their marriage, Charles Blodgett shipped out to the Pacific as lieutenant commander of a Landing Ship Tank. Like his father and other Blodgetts and Delands before him, he served his country in wartime. He fought bravely in World War II and even had two kamikaze planes attack his boat, killing six sailors.

LST 700, the boat on which Charles Blodgett served as skipper. This photo was taken in the Phillipines.

Luckily, Charles Blodgett survived that war and came home to raise four children with his wife Phyllis. The youngest of their children was Nancy and that child is me: Nancy Blodgett Klein. Marie and Hester Mahieu are both my great grandmothers. Three-hundred and seventy-six years after Marie was born, I was born. Marie is my great-grandmother 10 generations removed on the Deland family line while Hester, her younger sister, is my great-grandmother 11 generations removed on the Blodgett family line. Isn’t that amazing that the two family lines were connected way back when and came together again with me and my siblings?

My connection to Marie Mahieu

My connection to Hester Mahieu

Life Lesson: Genealogy can be fascinating, like reading a gripping who-done-it-novel that never ends. You uncover truths you never knew about yourself and your family. Be careful, though. This can become addictive and you may find yourself spending hours trying to get more information about long-lost relatives many generations removed from you just because you have been bitten by the genealogy bug.


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